The papers of Rymall Roxburgh (1915-2006) are a significant addition to collections in the Archives Research Centre. Its significance lies in his lifelong commitment to the Evangelical tradition within the Presbyterian Church and beyond.
Rymall was invited by Robert Miller, the son of Thomas Miller then minister of St. Stephen’s North, Dunedin to attend the Bible Class and here began his long association with the Presbyterian Church and the Miller family. He corresponded with them for 40 odd years and the letters give a wonderful insight into their journeys of faith.
Along with many of the young people who attended St. Stephen’s, Rymall joined the popular Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour. During his time at the University of Otago he played a significant role in the Evangelical Union where his interest in missions began. On completing his Master of Commerce with Honours, he went on to study for the Presbyterian ministry at the Theological Hall, Knox College 1941-1943.
He retained the course notes of the theology courses he undertook and these provide an insight into the teaching practices of the time. During his years of training at the Hall he kept up an active preaching ministry around Dunedin and Otago. His sermon collection has survived, which also includes sermons from India (in Punjabi) as well as those preached on his return toNew Zealand.
After his ordination and a short time at the Dargaville Parish in Northland, Rymall and Betty Roxburgh served as missionaries in the Church’s Punjab Mission in India. The Roxburghs went from being based at Jagadhri to the Hill Villages Mission at Dehra Dun, Punjab. The administration of the Mission altered over this long time with the formation of the Uniting Church of North India and then further union with other denominations to become the Church of North India. The twenty years of activity is well reflected in the collection highlighting the activities in which the family were involved.
Ill health brought Rymall Roxburgh back to New Zealand and out of missionary work. He served in two parishes in New Zealand; first an eight year ministry at St Albans Palmerston North with involvement on the Chaplaincy Committee of Massey University nearby, then at St. Paul’s Trinity Pacific, Christchurch, a multi-cultural inner-city church. He worked alongside the Rev. Kenape Faletoese and was involved with the Inner City Ministers’ Fraternal, an inter-denominational group committed to services of worship witnessing to the central city.
While in Christchurch he took study leave out of New Zealand, to explore church renewal in Canada and Britain, and was an observer for the New Zealand Church to the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.
Rymall’s evangelical links were already ecumenical. It may well be from this experience that he developed an interest in Church Union serving on Joint Regional Committees on his return to New Zealand; he held a high opinion of Anglican Episcopacy. After their retirement the Roxburgh’s moved to Geraldine in South Canterbury. Rymall did not remain inactive. He preached in the local church, a Co-operating Venture and served on visitations and vacancies in the mid and South Canterbury Joint Regional Committee.
He joined the Temuka Rotary which was instrumental in importing a foetal monitor to the Christian Hospital in Jagadhri. This gift reflects Rymall and Betty Roxburgh’s continuing and generous interest in Missions, supporting the Bible Society, Scripture Union and the Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship, later renamed Interserve. He maintained his correspondence with people who shared his interests in ministry, mission and evangelism. Their opportunity to travel and visit the United Kingdom and the USA meant they gathered together a collection of tour guides and ephemera.
Rymall and Betty Roxburgh kept a substantial collection of records beginning in the 1930s until after the end of the twentieth century. Over that time they remained connected to the Evangelical movement in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand and its challenges; to the mission field undergoing a generation of change; and to Ecumenical relations and Church Union. The collection gives an insight into the character and calibre of the Evangelical movement and its members over a life-time. It reveals their inspiration and their challenges. It is a legacy of witness waiting to be investigated. This makes their records a significant collection.
By Andrew Smith